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Security Jun 19, 2022

Making Sasol a digital business in an analog industry

A journey from ultra-traditional to ultra-agile in a hands-on business.

Natural resources and utilities
10,000 to 50,000


International integrated chemicals and energy company, Sasol, has over 30,000 people in 33 countries. It develops technologies – and builds and operates world-scale facilities – to make liquid fuels, chemicals and low-carbon electricity. Founded in Sasolburg, South Africa, back in 1950, it’s the world's first oil-from-coal company. And its Secunda Collieries form the world’s largest underground coal operations. 

Sasol reorganised in 2014 to be a nimbler organisation, but it struggled with an inflexible global network. Communications between global centres were expensive and unreliable. Centralised applications were sluggish and kept dropping out, so Sasol people weren’t as productive as they could be. All that made it difficult for management to get a single view across worldwide operations. So they called on us to help.

The challenge

Having forty-four service providers at Sasol meant a lot of network hops and access points. And that meant a lot of points things could go wrong. Our Advise consultants managed a transition and transformation project that saw our Internet Connect solution installed at key data centre hubs – giving Sasol people everywhere access to the web. 

We had a highly complex landscape. There were some areas where we weren't sure of the number of users on a site, or we lacked an asset register. Under those circumstances BT did a tremendously effective job.

Sudhish Mohan, VP, IM Services Southern Africa & Technology Architecture, Sasol

Digital innovation transformed Sasol from its ultra-traditional roots. Their mix of service providers meant lots of their people had to wait for global applications to respond. With our help, Sasol unified everything on a single IP Connect platform. By switching their infrastructure onto a single service that linked 68 sites worldwide, Sasol is now more agile, responsive and competitive.

We've got our network to a brilliant baseline. So now we can deliver new services as and when BT evolves them. They innovate and we benefit.

Sudhish Mohan, VP, IM Services Southern Africa & Technology Architecture, Sasol.

The solution

We installed a single network to bring everything under one roof for Sasol. Now, our incident management process tackles threats and incidents before most Sasol people ever hear about them. And to make sure nothing compromises the improved applications performance at a local level, all Sasol’s LANs are now under a single One Enterprise contract. 

Connect Acceleration (based on Riverbed) protects WAN bandwidth so that applications work properly and anything time-sensitive reaches its destination quicker. At all times. Having a single network means that Sasol can cope with sudden, extreme fluctuations in demand while staying robust. Since implementing Connect Acceleration, Sasol can manage and segregate the traffic flow better – and has more insight into what’s happening. 

John Watters is Sasol’s Global Well Delivery Manager. His work involves discussing locations, tests, analyses, maintenance plans and logistics, and collaborating with teammates constructing new wells in every corner of the globe. John’s team is spread over four countries – Canada, South Africa, Mozambique and the UK – and keeping them motivated, productive and informed used to mean two time-and-energy-sapping international trips every month. 

But John now only has to make one trip every six weeks thanks to 32 new high-end One Collaborate TelePresence suites in key sites around the world. They’re saving Sasol both time and money. And on top of that, our One Collaborate MeetMe and One Mobile secure access services mean Sasol people can work safer – not having to risk unnecessary travel through areas that can be dangerous or remote . 

For John, the outstanding quality of telepresence makes it “pretty much as good as face-to-face”. It picks up the nuances and intuitive aspects of collaborating that audio or standard video conferencing can’t deliver. “Before BT installed telepresence, I’d often be travelling to meetings on Sunday evenings, or back on Friday evenings” says John. “Now my team are more engaged, I’m doing my job more effectively, and I get my weekends back.”



SASOL occupies a fascinating niche in the worldwide energy industry


The result

It used to be hard for Sasol designers and engineers in different countries to draw up blueprints for new plants. Now they share CAD files and collaborate on them simultaneously. They hold video conferences and find on-the-spot answers to problems. They dial desk-to-desk. Everything’s faster and more streamlined. 

“We have roughly 14,000 people in Secunda,” says Sudhish. “There’s been a network challenge in that area for four years; I’d describe past performance as horrendous. But since we cut over to BT, there’s been a tremendous amount of feedback that the network performs amazingly in terms of availability and performance.” 

There are deeper shifts ahead for Sasol to become truly digital. But the new network provides the foundation. It means Sasol can take advantage of new services and technologies fast. Sudhish says: “BT innovates and we benefit.” 

It was a massive, complex job. BT performed very well, even in the face of a lot of challenges. When you work in partnership, you can foresee risks and take proactive steps around them together. Because BT had been there before, the process was simple and credible.

Sudhish Mohan, VP, IM Services Southern Africa & Technology Architecture, Sasol